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Advice to OPSEU Members and Next Steps

Advice to OPSEU Members and Next Steps

We the North
We the North
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For additional information, visit our Ebola Health Hazard Information page.

Advice to OPSEU members:

Workers MUST Report Concerns to Managers

According to Section 28 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, all workers have a duty to report the absence of or defects in any equipment that may endanger herself or another worker, and report any contravention of the Act or the existence of any hazards that he or she knows. Therefore, it is the legal duty of each of our members who do not believe current equipment, measures or procedures will protect them from Ebola, to report and follow up with their manager.

Employers must take Reasonable Precautions

  • Full training of hospital, EMS, and Lab personnel, along with proper protocols and training materials for Reasonable Precautions responding to outbreaks. And the JHSC is entitled to be consulted about the contents and development of training. 
     
  • Properly equipped isolation rooms to assure patient, visitor and staff safety.
     
  • Sufficient staffing to supplement nurses and other health workers who need to care for patients in isolation.
     
  • Regular Drills—the key to preparedness is regular drills. Once workers are trained on proper procedures with appropriate equipment, regular drills from point of entry to isolation to discharge are essential so:
     

    • Inadequate equipment and procedure gaps can be identified and refined in a safe setting.
       
    • When a real Ebola risk arises, everyone automatically, confidently and competently kicks into gear safely.​
  • Personal Protective Equipment Adequate and easily accessible supplies.
     

    • Body protection–It is universally accepted that Ebola can spread through contact with bodily fluids of an infected patient, yet we have received reports from members that protective gowns and gloves are too short, exposing wrist areas. We have received reports of supplied gowns not being sufficiently fluid resistant to prevent fluid penetration, and reports of sleeves ripping at the shoulder during regular use. And face shields supplied leave a large proportion of the neck and face exposed. None of this is acceptable, and workers should report these and any similar deficiencies to their supervisors
       
    • Respiratory protection—Aerosol transmissibility has not been ruled out. While Ontario officials call for proper respirators (e.g. at least fit tested N95s) for aerosol-generating medical procedures, they only recommend surgical or procedure masks for care staff such as nurses or cleaners who may be exposed to aerosols generated by toilet flushing, coughing, etc. OPSEU advises that any worker with direct contact with a suspected or actual ebola patient request a properly fitted N95 mask. Why? Because previous contact precautions (gown, surgical mask and gloves) in “low-risk” countries have been shown to be inadequate in the United States and in Spain.

Next Steps

  • If they have not already,  please have your JHSCs discuss, at their next meetings, what protective measures, procedures, equipment and training are in place to protect workers from exposure to Ebola. If your meeting is far off, ask for an emergency meeting. 
  • Your committee members should submit recommendations to the employer, who must respond to written recommendations from the JHSC or co-chair with 21 days. Make the recommendations using the MOL orders and material above.
  • Call the Ministry of Labour if necessary. If proper protection and training is not in place, and potentially affected members are not regularly drilled on their application, the employer is in violation of the law and it is prudent for the Local President and/or JHSC to call the Ministry of Labour with a complaint at their toll-free contact centre: 1-877-202-0008. OPSEU recommends that local Presidents and JHSCs raise your unresolved health and safety concern(s) as high and as quickly as necessary to protect workers.

For other updated or new documents, please regularly visit the Public Health Ontario site at http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/BrowseByTopic/InfectiousDiseases/Pages/Viral-Hemorrhagic-Fevers.aspx Some of the main documents are listed below. .

For more information, contact OPSEU’s Health and Safety Unit: 1-800-268-7376, 416-443-8888, ext. 8772 or 8774. 

Also, visit our Ebola Health Hazard Information page.